8.8

“I think we should just call it the study group,” Lorque opined. “Nobody gets nosy or interested in a study group.”

Nilien looked around. They’d been talking about Ember, but where was her familiar?

“It should have some sort of dramatic name,” Augustin countered. “Like ‘Augustin’s Army.’”

“I don’t think we’re much of an army,” Chason countered. “Nor are we yours, are we?”

Ember had been gone a long time. Nilien hoped something hadn’t happened to the fox – another badger attack or something worse. Wasn’t it supposed to be watching Chason?

Riva laughed. “We’re not Augustin’s anything. We’re the Riva Weavers!”

“Hey.” Nilien glared at them. “Let’s not be ridiculous. I mean, we could be the… The Book Club? That’s almost as boring as a study club.”

“But we don’t…” Augustin looked defeated. “I mean-”

I like the “Book Club.” Tell him you’ll have a secret book that keeps your minutes.

Nilien jumped. There was Ember, right at her feet. “Hello! Where’d you come from?”

That is a ridiculous question. Tell him. It’s time for lunch and my feet are tired.

Nilien picked Ember up. “Ember suggests a secret book, that way the Book Club has a double meaning.”

Chason chuckled. “You have one interesting familiar. Some day, we’re going to find out that Ember really doesn’t say anything at all to you and you’re just making it up.”

Nilien blushed and ducked her head. Ember fixed Chason with a steely glare for a moment, before turning its attention to its tail, which apparently needed to be tucked in a specific and exact manner into Nilien’s arms.

“So…” If she changed the subject, she wouldn’t think about blaming getting lost on Ember when she’d been spying on Heldira. “When do we want to spy – that is – when do we want to all see the secret hideout? I can show you after classes?”

“After dinner would be better.” Chason patted Ember’s head as if the fox hadn’t just been glaring at him. “I study with my other friends right after classes.”

“I can’t do right after dinner,” Augustin complained. “I’ve got to write a paper.”

“Well, what about tomorrow?” Riva offered. “After dinner? Or before breakfast?”

“I can’t do before breakfast.” Lorque frowned. “I can’t get dressed that early.”

Round and round they went, until they finally settled on the next day after dinner. Then they had to sort out a meeting place.

“What about up in the leftmost tower? The one that isn’t used for classes right now?” Augustin offered.

“I’m not even going to be able to find it,” Nilien countered. “How about-” There weren’t that many places she didn’t know that weren’t very obvious. “Our room, Lorque’s and mine. I can find everything I need to from there.” She petted Ember between the ears.

Is this a good idea? Ember asked. His badger-loving friend is in the cafeteria, by the way. I am taking a break from stalking.

She kept petting Ember, unable to answer that question in front of everyone. Besides, what could she say when the answer was I hope so?

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